2 Corinthians 1:1-7
Check this out:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4 who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. NRSV
Here’s the dynamic: Paul praises God, who consoles him in his sufferings. God helps Paul, and Paul in turn helps others. God’s help for Paul in his suffering results in Paul helping others in their sufferings.
I’m reminded of a thought my friend Oliver Phillips once said while preaching at the church I pastored. He said, “God’s grace is always on the move. It’s always going through you on its way to someone else.”
Dr. Charles Gailey, missions prof at Nazarene Seminary when I was there, used to talk about us becoming “conduits of God’s grace.” A conduit is a pipe… its purpose is to facilitate the flow of water (or something) from one place to another. As the pipe fulfills it’s purpose as a conduit, it winds up being full itself… but it’s a different kind of “full.” It’s a full that is being filled, not just a static, full vessel. The fullness experienced by the conduit is one of continual renewal and re-filling.
And I see that dynamic in this passage. See, we tend to thing God wants to help just us. As if answering my prayer or meeting my need is the point of this whole thing. That’s a bad tendency. If Paul really means what he says here, God’s consolation for Paul (grace) is working through him to help others. It’s not just for him… it’s always on its way to someone else. And it is impossible to a) acknowledge that fact and b) participate in it if we are so focused on ourselves and our needs that we ignore the other. We need to recognize our role as conduits, not cups.
It’s almost as if Paul is really serious about the faith being way more an “us” thing than a “me” thing.